Image by Lin Pernille ♥ Photography via FlickrLast Writes
By Sheila Lowe
"This is what rejecting independent thinking gets you." (p. 289)
Obsidian - Penguin
I must say that the first paragraph of Sheila Lowe's new book had me hooked! And that doesn't happen too often. Perhaps I had envisoned an entirely different type of story, based upon the title--you know, like the last will and testament of some rich guy that was being contested by all the relatives. Not so!
Last Writes is about a child that has been kidnapped by her father. Her mother, Erin Powers has contacted her half-sister, seeking help and Kelly Brennan, in turn, contacts her best friend Claudia Rose. You may already be aware that Claudia Rose is an expert in handwriting analysis.
In fact, I might as well point out that, if you haven't started reading the Claudia Rose Series, you are missing meeting a wonderful, caring woman who, with her handwriting expertise, has turned into an "amateur sleuth" extraordinaire. I have been a fan since the first two books, which were a little more cozy-type in nature. However, her last book, and now, especially, with Last Writes, we see a Claudia Rose that is extraordinary in not only following the clues, but having the guts and strength of character to keep on moving into dangerous situations until she has successfully responded to the individual seeking help!
Even though the solution to the problem can be gruesome, as in Last Writes!
The story begins as Claudia studies the handwriting of a note that has been left by Rodney Powers
Hand-printed in black ink, the note read: DON’T BOTHER LOOKING. THERE MIGHT BE SUFFERING BUT NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK. GOD’S WILL BE DONE. There is a signature.
Claudia's first response about the handwriting is that she has concerns. Then she starts questioning Erin...
Erin and Rodney are members of a church, the Temple of Brighter Light. They live in an isolated area where there are about 200 men, women and children. The individuals there are living and learning and, most of all, preparing for the last days. Their beautiful child, Kylie, has been selected to be dedicated into the service of Jephthah's Daughters, a special program that takes a young child at the age of 3!
Erin explained that originally both parents had been honored to have their child selected, but then Erin had changed her mind, so Rodney had taken Kylie and left. Erin was certain that Kylie had not wanted to go, since she had not even had a chance to take Tickle, her favorite bear, which was always with Kylie. She knew that Kylie had been taken at night and right now was somewhere, afraid and lonely, without even Tickle to comfort her! And...Kylie would become 3 on the next Saturday!
Kelly and Claudia were quickly and totally willing to help. Kelly had just learned that she had a niece and insisted on going with Claudia. They first attended an open invitation session where they would have an opportunity to hear Brother Harold Stedman speak. And listening--it became almost hypnotic; Claudia even pinched herself to make sure she was wide awake and concentrating on finding clues to Kylie.
And then Brother Stedman called for Kelly and Claudia to join him after the service ended. Their seats had been bugged! Brother Stedman had heard Claudia talking about the handwriting of one of those who had gone forward after the service, saying that he had been lying. Before she knew it, Claudia had been hired to come and do a job for him--analyzing the handwriting of a number of his church members!
Kelly immediately expressed a desire to learn more about his church. So they were both invited to stay. They would be able to investigate from within the community!
Soon after they arrived, Claudia and Kelly were separated. Claudia was to live in the same building with Brother Stedman and work in an office there. Kelly was to live in another building as if she were a new member. Claudia immediately received a group of stories that had been written by prospective members of the church community; it told why they wanted to join; but had no names attached. Not knowing even the sex of the individual would make Claudia's job more difficult, but she began to work and did indeed find several about which she would have to share some concern.
But Claudia also began to see changes in Kelly and often, she would not be permitted to see her, being told that she was in class. Finally, when they did get together, Claudia wondered if Kelly had been drugged...
Although both Claudia and Kelly were also talking to members of the community, trying to learn more about where Rodney and Kylie might be, not many of the men would even talk to them. They learned that a big celebration would occur on Saturday, for Kylie; but everybody understood that the entire family was away preparing for this major event.
Soon Claudia and Kelly attended a service at which it was announced that a man had just been excommunicated from the church; that he had been placed outside the gates and he was to be shunned and assumed to be gone forever.
Then Claudia had an opportunity to leave and she talk to Joel Javonic, her friend, lover and police detective. He had been concerned about Claudia going into the closed community. Now, he wanted her to leave! The FBI were already looking at the group and had an operative inside! Claudia was afraid that she might have already exposed the individual by analyzing the handwriting. Had the excommunicated man been the operative?! But she had to return; Kelly was still there...and they still had to find Kylie!
And then, one of the friends of Rodney with whom they had talked got a message to Claudia. She was fairly certain, even though she didn't have the original note that Erin had showed her, that Rodney had not written that first note about Kylie! Coming back from updating Kelly one night, Claudia also sees a number of heavily robed individuals coming from one of the buildings rarely used and silently returning to their homes. One had gone into the building where Claudia was staying!
Wow! You've got some exciting reading when you select Last Writes by Sheila Lowe! This is one of those rare books that I want to just go ahead and continue to tell you what happens--but you know I can't do that! What I can do is tell you that there are surprising page-turning twists that forced me to continue reading. No wonder I've add Sheila Lowe to my favorite author "must-read" list!
Book Provided by
G. A. Bixler